Category Archives: Sermon Archives

Revenge Revisited, Sunday Sermon from February 24, 2019

Click to hear the recording of Rev. Dr. Eric Kimball Hinds re-reading the sermon.

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my Father.  Prepare to Die!

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my Father.  Prepare to Die!

In the movie The Princess Bride, that is the famous line repeated by the character played by Mandy Patinkin as he seeks to exact revenge upon the cruel and arrogant lieutenant Count Rugen.  As far as sympathy goes—the movie audience easily identifies with the character of Inigo Montoya and his desire for revenge over the murder of his father. It is after all an almost universal experience, that of wanting to get even, to get back for a slight or to settle a score.  From ancient times the oldest law codes recognize a victims right to justice.  An idea succinctly captured in the words An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

And yet, in this morning’s Gospel, Jesus ventures to gather his followers and charges them with loving their enemies.  Love your enemies!?  It’s hard enough to love friends or family sometimes—let alone love your enemies. Can you imagine a new follower of Jesus attempting to make sense of his words Love your enemies?  Love the Romans? —who occupy the country by the point of the sword, heavily tax the population, and crucify dissenters?  Love the bandits and thieves who roam the country extorting what remaining wealth they can find?  In the not too distant future, love your persecutors??  It is more than most of us can get our minds around; and yet, Jesus has a long discourse built around loving one’s enemies.

For starters Jesus instructs:  Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you, and Pray for those who abuse you.  And then Jesus offers up the idea of turning the other cheek.  This Gospel passage this morning forces one to ask Has Jesus provided his followers with a set of impossible standards—or—Is Jesus on to something?  Something difficult—but significant.  Something important for religious people to grapple with. Ultimately, a set of teachings one should struggle to embrace.

At the center of Jesus’s teaching this morning lies the admonition If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.  At first it seems an invitation to become nothing more than a passive punching bag—vulnerable to any amount of abuse that an assailant might choose to administer.  Upon closer examination though, there is evidence that in the context of his day and age, Jesus is speaking of the specific area of personal insult—where an adversary would registertheir disparagement by using the back side of their right hand to slap the cheek—thus asserting both their authority and dominance.  By offering the other cheek after being slapped, an individual was depriving their adversary of the normal status quo.  Turning the other cheek would force the aggressorto use their left hand, the hand used for unclean purposes, to deliver the next slap.  Thisalternative, if delivered, would acknowledge a level of equality.  And so, far from being an act of passivity, offering the other cheek in this context would amount to a determined act of defiance. A refusal to meet violence with violence andalsoa challenge for one to be recognized as an individual with equal rights and equal dignity.

With Jesus one sees the beginning of an attempt to recognize the innate worth of every person—even one’s enemies.  A venture to see the light within every individual—no matter how dim the flame may be flickering.  By extension it must be something like the way that God must view creation—with the power to love us—even when ourdisobediencetakes us far from the fold of the faithful.  From the outset one must say that this is no easy teaching.  Certainly, one does not come to loving one’s enemies naturally.  Rather, it requires a maturity and a disciplinethat at times may seem far beyond our grasp.  This notion though, of at least praying for one’s enemies, has been embodied by those who have championed non-violence as a means to resist oppression and to bring about social change.

In modern times, one can look to the example of Gandhi, who championed the use of non-violence to resist British oppression.  Those same lessons were adopted by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight for Civil rights in our own country.  And they were also utilized to combat the policy of apartheid in the country of South Africa.  In each of these cases, social change was facilitated by a disciplined approach, one that sought to transform the hearts and minds of one’s opponentswhile refusing to fuelthe flames of violence. There was a determined effort to beak the cycle of hate.

In the movie The Princess Bride, after 20 years of dreaming of revenge, and consumed by relentless pursuit, Inigo Montoya finally catches up with Count Rugen, and he extracts his revenge.  He kills the man—who killed his father.  As the movie reaches its denouement, few people remember the line delivered by Montoya near the very end of the film.  Reflecting upon the movie many years later—the actor Mandy Patinkin offers that: while theYou killed my father—prepare to die! remains one of the most memorablelines from the movie—perhaps the most significantline from the film is delivered by his character right near the end—when Montoya reflects “I have been in the revenge business so long—Now that its over—I do not know what to do with the rest of my life.”

That acknowledgement highlights the way that the anger surrounding revenge can become all consuming—crowding out one’s capacity and energy for positive emotions and action and above all for love.  Speaking about this phenomenaArchbishop Desmond Tutu reminded followers that “Before Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962, he was an angry, (relatively) young man”—and then he spent 24 years in prison, breaking rocks, and sleeping on the floor of a tiny cell.  If anyone had reason to hate, to dream of settling a score it was Mandela—and yet to the astonishment all Tutu observed that “When he was released [from prison]  Mandela surprised everyone because he was talking about forgiveness and not revenge.”

When asked one time to explain his outlook Mandela offered that: Resentment is like an individual drinking poison and then hoping that (the poison you consume) will kill your enemies.

Do good to those who hate you
Bless those who curse you
and Pray for those who abuse you.

Love your enemies
Impossible attitudes to undertake on our own.
And yet—if we venture to turn away from revenge and to embody some measure of the love that God holds for us—the promise that Jesus offers is that:

   Forgive and you will be forgiven—
            Give and it will be given to you—
            And—The measure that you give—
                               will be the measure you receive.


Sermon preached by the Reverend Doctor Eric Kimball Hinds at the Episcopal Church of Saint Matthew in San Mateo, California, on 24 February 2019, the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C.  Lessons: Genesis 45:3-11, 15; Psalm 37: 1-12, 41-42; 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50; Luke 6:27-38.

Summer Sunday Worship in July and August

Starting on July 1st and continuing through August 26th, we move to our summer worship schedule of one service at 9:00 a.m. each Sunday. We follow Rite I (contemporary language) in July, and Rite I (traditional language) in August. As always, nursery care is available for little ones, and a summer program for kids – Summer Spark – will begin at 8:45 am through the first half of church for children in grades K-6.

Those who normally attend the 8:00 service are asked to provide coffee hour according to the usual alphabetical schedule in July, while those who normally attend 10:15 will do so in August. Coffee hour will be al fresco. As in summers past, coffee hour will be held under the oaks in the Baldwin side garden. Please bring your goodies on a paper plate, well wrapped (to discourage critters), and place them on the table on your way into church.

Poppies and Lamps Cast Out Darkness (The Rev. Dr. Eric Kimball Hinds)

Poppies and Lamps Cast Out Darkness
The fall of my Junior year in college I studied abroad in London.  It was about this time of year that I had a week off from classes so I decided to travel to Scotland.  I took the midnight train from Kings Cross Station and arrived in Edinburgh early in the morning.  After securing lodging at a Bed and Breakfast, I set out to explore the city and began to notice that perhaps every fourth person or so was wearing a red poppy.  As the week went on it seemed that just about everyone was sporting a red poppy.  You had to look find someone not wearing one.  The reason for wearing the poppy was a mystery to me—and so I asked an older woman who patiently explained that they were a part of the observance of Remembrance Day which began after WW I to remember the members of the armed forces who died in the line of duty.  She also explained that proceeds from the sale of the paper red poppies were directed towards ex-servicemen in need of welfare & financial support.
Ever since the poem In Flanders Fields, the beautiful imagery of fields of poppies has become mixed with: lament for blood spilled, for lives lost, and for remembrance.  Many of you I am sure are familiar with the poem In Flanders Fields, which was written during the First World War, after John McCrae, a Canadian artillery commander and physician, observed poppies growing in the midst off battlefields where many soldiers had been buried.  The fifteen line poem reads:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.
The poem sets down a variety of images that sit together uneasily.  The fragility of life and a place where death has become commonplace.  The beauty of fields of poppies and larks singing in the sky stand in stark contrast with the violence of war.  And in the final verse—there is the image of a torch passed from failing hands to those still fighting.
What eventually dawned on me while walking the streets of Edinburgh was the magnitude of loss that the people of the United Kingdom suffered and still felt decades after the end of both World Wars.  Their sense of collective loss was far more intense than anything that I had experienced at home.  This impression was confirmed as eventually I observed everywhere long lists of names of fallen parishioners in the war memorials found within English and Scottish Churches.  This weekend marks a strange juxtaposition of holidays where the Commonwealth Nations set aside November 11th to remember the dead, whereas for us, Veterans Day is set aside to honor the living—those who are currently serving or who have served our country.  By contrast we set aside Memorial Day to intentionally remember our fallen.

 

At first glance this morning’s Gospel would seem to have nothing to do with our national observance of Veterans Day this weekend.  And yet, like the poem In Flanders Field, there is an uneasiness to the Gospel Story.  We have a story of a wedding feast, a bridegroom, and bridesmaids.  And yet, in the midst of beauty and celebration, we suddenly have a scene of judgement—where the five foolish bridesmaids are locked out of the Kingdom.  It is a difficult scene—for who among us has not misjudged a situation at one time or another been unprepared, as in not having extra oil for lamps or been so tired that one is unable to stay awake for something important.
For me the hard part of this Gospel, and the hard part of this weekend is the unfairness that seeps through—Not knowing if one is vigilant enough, or prudent enough, to make it into the kingdom.  And a holiday that rightly celebrates the living, but recognizes that it is impossible to accomplish without also remembering our fallen, and knowing the immense pain suffered by both the living and the dead.  The ambiguity of this morning’s Gospel also brings to mind the uneasy way that armed conflict sits juxtaposed with the church’s longing for a peaceable kingdom.
Perhaps the most meaningful imagery that comes to us from the Gospel today is that of the lamps shining in the darkness.  The acknowledgement that in all kinds of ways, and in a hundred different situations—we may find ourselves in the dark, facing uncertainty, crisis, doubt, unbelief, disaster, or an unexpected trial or tribulation—and yet the greater witness of our gathering for Church this day, and our worship Sunday by Sunday—the greater witness of wearing poppy’s or marking Veteran’s Day—is to demonstrate that we are never alone in the dark.  That we are part of a larger community that at our best learns to hold lamps for one another—knowing that Christ is with us as we pray for one another, and that we are called to lift one another up, in good times and in bad, in life, and in death.
In fact, the poem In Flanders Fields, is a tribute of sorts to a solider offering remembrance for a fallen comrade.  The poem was written in the days after John McCrae presided over his friend’s funeral.  In this context the poem is an enduring testament of the triumph of community, friendship and the Gospel of love. 
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.
Sermon preached by The Reverend Eric Kimball Hinds at The Episcopal Church of Saint Matthew, San Mateo, California on 12 November 2017, The Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year One.  Lessons: Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16; Psalm 70; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13.